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Sneak Peek: Emerging Technologies

Originally Published MPMN February 2005

PRODUCT UPDATE

Sneak Peek: Emerging Technologies

Implantable Devices May Soon Be Able to Transmit Body Data to External Receivers

Currently, implantable medical devices can perform wondrous tasks. They can regulate your heartbeat, detect an abnormal heart rhythm and shock your heart back into normal range, or ease movement by acting almost like a natural hip joint.

But what if these devices could also report back to your doctor information about what is happening inside your body? One company, Zarlink Semiconductor, is working to make that a possibility. As a partner in the Healthy Aims European Union Framework VI project, Zarlink is researching in-body antenna designs for something called Body Area Networks.

Body Area Networks enable wireless communication from implanted medical devices to a base station up to three meters away. The company will focus its attention on antenna and ultralow power communication systems for devices such as hearing aids and muscle stimulators.

There are distinct challenges in transmitting signals from an in-body device to an external power receiver. Power consumption, frequency, size, and biocompatibility are all concerns. Different body tissues such as muscle, bone, and fat offer varying resistance to electrical signals. And antennas for wireless implanted devices must be very small in size and highly efficient to ensure that signal loss through the human body is kept to a minimum.

Using the Medical Implantable Communication Service (MICS) band, a dedicated frequency band between 402 and 405 MHz for device communications, a healthcare provider can establish a high-speed, short-range wireless link between and implanted device and a base station. With a two-way RF link, doctors can remotely monitor the health of patients and wirelessly adjust the performance of the implanted device.

“The rapidly growing area of in-body electronics requires power-conserving designs to extend product life and support increased functionality,” says Martin McHugh, Zarlink’s business development manager. “Our work as part of the Healthy Aims project will help realize exciting new medical products and deepen our knowledge in ultra-low-power design and wireless technology.”

Copyright ©2005 Medical Product Manufacturing News
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